By Judy Greenwald, Crain News Service
LAKELAND, Fla. (April 15, 2015) — One of the first two lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that charged sex discrimination against a transgender individual has been settled.
A Florida eye clinic has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle the case, the EEOC said April 13.
Lakeland-based Lakeland Eye Clinic also agreed to implement a new gender discrimination policy and to provide training to its management and employees regarding transgender/gender stereotype discrimination under terms of the settlement, which was approved by the U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla., last week.
The EEOC lawsuit charged that the eye clinic fired its director of hearing services after she began to present as a woman and informed the clinic she was transgender and transitioning from male to female — although she had performed her duties satisfactorily throughout her employment. The agency did not name the employee in its statement.
The EEOC charged the clinic's actions violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Commenting on the settlement, EEOC general counsel David Lopez said in the statement, “This historic settlement is significant. It not only is one of the first two lawsuits ever filed by the Commission alleging sex discrimination against a transgender individual, but it also solidifies the EEOC's commitment to enforcing the rights of transgender employees secured by Title VII.”
A Lakeland spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
The EEOC said in its statement that the Lakeland lawsuit is part of the EEOC's ongoing effort to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan, which includes coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII's sex discrimination provisions.
Its other transgender lawsuit was filed in September 2014 against Detroit-based R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc., in which it charged that the firm had fired a funeral director/embalmer because she is transgender. An EEOC spokesman said the parties are in pre-trial motions, with oral argument on the defendant's motion to dismiss scheduled for April 16.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has proposed new guidelines for federal contractors that, among other provisions, requires contractors to provide transgender employees access to bathrooms used by the gender with which they identify.
This report appeared on the website of Business Insurance magazine, a Chicago-based sister publication of Tire Business.